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The Education Of The Negro Prior To 1861
Chapter XIII - Education at Public Expense
by Woodson, Carter Godwin


The persistent struggle of the colored people to have their children educated at public expense shows how resolved they were to be enlightened. In the beginning Negroes had no aspiration to secure such assistance. Because the free public schools were first regarded as a system to educate the poor, the friends of the free blacks turned them away from these institutions lest men might reproach them with becoming a public charge. Moreover, philanthropists deemed it wise to provide separate schools for Negroes to bring them into contact with sympathetic persons, who knew their peculiar needs. In the course of time, however, when the stigma of charity was removed as a result of the development of the free schools at public expense, Negroes concluded that it was not dishonorable to share the benefits of institutions which they were taxed to support.[1] Unable then to cope with systems thus maintained for the education of the white youth, the directors of colored schools requested that something be appropriated for the education of Negroes. Complying with these petitions boards of education provided for colored schools which were to be partly or wholly supported at public expense. But it was not long before the abolitionists saw that they had made a mistake in carrying out this policy. The amount appropriated to the support of the special schools was generally inadequate to supply them with the necessary equipment and competent teachers, and in most communities the white people had begun to regard the co-education of the races as undesirable. Confronted then with this caste prejudice, one of the hardest struggles of the Negroes and their sympathizers was that for democratic education.
[Footnote 1: The Negroes of Baltimore were just prior to the Civil War paying $500 in taxes annually to support public schools which their children could not attend.]
The friends of the colored people in Pennsylvania were among the first to direct the attention of the State to the duty of enlightening the blacks as well as the whites. In 1802, 1804, and 1809, respectively, the State passed, in the interest of the poor, acts which although interpreted to exclude Negroes from the benefits therein provided, were construed, nevertheless, by friends of the race as authorizing their education at public expense. Convinced of the truth of this contention, officials in different parts of the State began to yield in the next decade. At Columbia, Pennsylvania, the names of such colored children as were entitled to the benefits of the law for the education of the poor were taken in 1818 to enable them to attend the free public schools. Following the same policy, the Abolition Society of Philadelphia, seeing that the city had established public schools for white children in 1818, applied two years later for the share of the fund to which the children of African descent were entitled by law. The request was granted. The Comptroller opened in Lombard Street in 1822 a school for children of color, maintained at the expense of the State. This furnished a precedent for other such schools which were established in 1833, and 1841.[1] Harrisburg had a colored school early in the century, but upon the establishment of the Lancastrian school in that city in the thirties, the colored as well as the white children were required to attend it or pay for their education themselves.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 379.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 379.]
In 1834 the legislature of Pennsylvania established a system of public schools, but the claims of the Negroes to public education were neither guaranteed nor denied.[1] The school law of 1854, however, seems to imply that the benefits of the system had always been understood to extend to colored children.[2] This measure provided that the comptrollers and directors of the several school districts of the State could establish within their respective districts separate schools for Negro and mulatto children wherever they could be so located as to accommodate twenty or more pupils. Another provision was that wherever such schools should "be established and kept open four months in the year" the directors and comptrollers should not be compelled to admit colored pupils to any other schools of that district. The law was interpreted to mean that wherever such accommodations were not provided the children of Negroes could attend the other schools. Such was the case in the rural districts where a few colored children often found it pleasant and profitable to attend school with their white friends.[3] The children of Robert B. Purvis, however, were turned away from the public schools of Philadelphia on the ground that special educational facilities for them had been provided.[4] It was not until 1881 that Pennsylvania finally swept away all the distinctions of caste from her public school system.
[Footnote 1: "Purdon's Digest of the Laws of Pa"., p. 291, sections 1-23.]

[Footnote 2: Stroud and Brightly, "Purdon's Digest", p. 1064, section 23.]

[Footnote 3: Wickersham, "History of Education in Pa"., p. 253.]

[Footnote 4: Wigham, "The Antislavery Cause in America", p. 103.]
As the colored population of New Jersey was never large, there was not sufficient concentration of such persons in that State to give rise to the problems which at times confronted the benevolent people of Pennsylvania. Great as had been the reaction, the Negroes of New Jersey never entirely lost the privilege of attending school with white students. The New Jersey Constitution of 1844 provided that the funds for the support of the public schools should be applied for the equal benefit of all the people of that State.[1] Considered then entitled to the benefits of this fund, colored pupils were early admitted into the public schools without any social distinction.[2] This does not mean that there were no colored schools in that commonwealth. Negroes in a few settlements like that of Springtown had their own schools.[3] Separate schools were declared illegal by an act of the General Assembly in 1881.
[Footnote 1: Thorpe, "Federal and State Constitutions", vol. v., p. 2604.]

[Footnote 2: "Southern Workman", vol. xxxvii., p. 390.]

[Footnote 3: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 400.]
Certain communities of New York provided separate schools for colored pupils rather than admit them to those open to white children. On recommendation of the superintendent of schools in 1823 the State adopted the policy of organizing schools exclusively for colored people.[1] In places where they already existed, the State could aid the establishment as did the New York Common Council in 1824, when it appropriated a portion of its fund to the support of the African Free Schools.[2] In 1841 the New York legislature authorized any district, with the approbation of the school commissioners, to establish a separate school for the colored children in their locality. The superintendent's report for 1847 shows that schools for Negroes had been established in fifteen counties in the State, reporting an enrollment of 5000 pupils. For the maintenance of these schools the sum of $17,000 had been annually expended. Colored pupils were enumerated by the trustees in their annual reports, drew public money for the district in which they resided, and were equally entitled with white children to the benefit of the school fund. In the rural districts colored children were generally admitted to the common schools. Wherever race prejudice, however, was sufficiently violent to exclude them from the village school, the trustees were empowered to use the Negroes' share of the public money to provide for their education elsewhere. At the same time indigent Negroes were to be exempted from the payment of the "rate bill" which fell as a charge upon the other citizens of the district.[3]
[Footnote 1: Randall, "Hist. of Common School System of New York", p. 24.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 48.]

[Footnote 3: Randall, "Hist. of Common School System of New York", p. 248.]
Some trouble had arisen from making special appropriations for incorporated villages. Such appropriations, the superintendent had observed, excited prejudice and parsimony; for the trustees of some villages had learned to expend only the special appropriations for the education of the colored pupils, and to use the public money in establishing and maintaining schools for the white children. He believed that it was wrong to argue that Negroes were any more a burden to incorporated villages than to cities or rural districts, and that they were, therefore, entitled to every allowance of money to educate them.[1]
[Footnote 1: Randall, "Hist. of Common School System of New York", p. 249.]
In New York City much had already been done to enlighten the Negroes through the schools of the Manumission Society. But as the increasing population of color necessitated additional facilities, the Manumission Society obtained from the fund of the Public School Society partial support of its system. The next step was to unite the African Free Schools with those of the Public School Society to reduce the number of organizations participating in the support of Negro education. Despite the argument of some that the two systems should be kept separate, the property and schools of the Manumission Society were transferred to the New York Public School Society in 1834.[2] Thereafter the schools did not do as well as they had done before. The administrative part of the work almost ceased, the schools lost in efficiency, and the former attendance of 1400 startlingly dropped. An investigation made in 1835 showed that many Negroes, intimidated by frequent race riots incident to the reactionary movement, had left the city, while others kept their children at home for safety. It seemed, too, that they looked upon the new system as an innovation, did not like the action of the Public School Society in reducing their schools of advanced grade to that of the primary, and bore it grievously that so many of the old teachers in whom they had confidence, had been dropped. To bring order out of chaos the investigating committee advised the assimilation of the separate schools to the white. Thereupon the society undertook to remake the colored schools, organizing them into a system which offered instruction in primary, intermediate, and grammar departments. The task of reconstruction, however, was not completed until 1853, when the property of the colored schools was transferred to the Board of Education of New York.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 366.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 366.]
The second transfer marked an epoch in the development of Negro education in New York. The Board of Education proceeded immediately to perfect the system begun at the time of the first change. The new directors reclassified the lower grades, opened other grammar schools, and established a normal school according to the recommendation of the investigating committee of 1835. Supervision being more rigid thereafter, the schools made some progress, but failed to accomplish what was expected of them. They were carelessly intrusted for supervision to the care of ward officers, some of whom partly neglected this duty, while others gave the work no attention whatever. It was unfortunate, too, that some of these schools were situated in parts of the city where the people were not interested in the uplift of the despised race, and in a few cases in wards which were almost proslavery. Better results followed after the colored schools were brought under the direct supervision of the Board of Education.

Before the close of the Civil War the sentiment of the people of the State of New York had changed sufficiently to permit colored children to attend the regular public schools in several communities. This, however, was not general. It was, therefore, provided in the revised code of that State in 1864 that the board of education of any city or incorporated village might establish separate schools for children and youth of African descent provided such schools be supported in the same manner as those maintained for white children. The last vestige of caste in the public schools of New York was not exterminated until 1900, in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt as Governor of New York. The legislature then passed an act providing that no one should be denied admittance to any public school on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.[1]
[Footnote 1: "Laws of New York", 1900, ch. 492.]
In Rhode Island, where the black population was proportionately larger than in some other New England States, special schools for persons of color continued. These efforts met with success at Newport. In the year 1828 a separate school for colored children was established at Providence and placed in charge of a teacher receiving a salary of $400 per annum.[1] A decade later another such school was opened on Pond Street in the same city. About this time the school law of Rhode Island was modified so as to make it a little more favorable to the people of color. The State temporarily adopted a rule by which the school fund was thereafter not distributed, as formerly, according to the number of inhabitants below the age of sixteen. It was to be apportioned, thereafter, according to the number of white persons under the age of ten years, "together with five-fourteenths of the said [colored] population between the ages of ten and twenty-four years." This law remained in force between the years 1832 and 1845. Under the new system these schools seemingly made progress. In 1841 they were no longer giving the mere essentials of reading and writing, but combined the instruction of both the grammar and the primary grades.[2]
[Footnote 1: Stockwell, "Hist. of Education in R.I"., p. 169.]

[Footnote 2: Stockwell, "Hist. of Education in R.I"., p. 51.]
Thereafter Rhode Island had to pass through the intense antislavery struggle which had for its ultimate aim both the freedom of the Negro and the democratization of the public schools. Petitions were sent to the legislature, and appeals were made to representatives asking for a repeal of those laws which permitted the segregation of the colored children in the public schools. But intense as this agitation became, and urgently as it was put before the public, it failed to gain sufficient momentum to break down the barriers prior to 1866 when the legislature of Rhode Island passed an act abolishing separate schools for Negroes.[1]
[Footnote 1: "Public Laws of the State of Rhode Island", 1865-66, p. 49.]
Prior to the reactionary movement the schools of Connecticut were, like most others in New England at that time, open alike to black and white. It seems, too, that colored children were well received and instructed as thoroughly as their white friends. But in 1830, whether on account of the increasing race prejudice or the desire to do for themselves, the colored people of Hartford presented to the School Society of that city a petition that a separate school for persons of color be established with a part of the public school fund which might be apportioned to them according to their number. Finding this request reasonable, the School Society decided to take the necessary steps to comply with it. As such an agreement would have no standing at law the matter was recommended to the legislature of the State, which authorized the establishment in that commonwealth of several separate schools for persons of color.[1] This arrangement, however, soon proved unsatisfactory. Because of the small number of Negroes in Connecticut towns, they found their pro rata inadequate to the maintenance of separate schools. No buildings were provided for them, such schools as they had were not properly supervised, the teachers were poorly paid, and with the exception of a little help from a few philanthropists, the white citizens failed to aid the cause. In 1846, therefore, the pastor of the colored Congregational Church sent to the School Society of Hartford a memorial calling attention to the fact that for lack of means the colored schools had been unable to secure suitable quarters and competent teachers. Consequently the education of their children had been exceedingly irregular, deficient, and onerous. The School Society had done nothing for these institutions but to turn over to them every year their small share of the public fund. These gentlemen then decided to raise by taxation an amount adequate to the support of two better equipped schools and proceeded at once to provide for its collection and expenditure.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 334.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 334.]
The results gave general satisfaction for a while. But as it was a time when much was being done to develop the public schools of New England, the colored people of Hartford could not remain contented. They saw the white pupils housed in comfortable buildings and attending properly graded classes, while their own children continued to be crowded into small insanitary rooms and taught as unclassified students. The Negroes, therefore, petitioned for a more suitable building and a better organization of their schools. As this request came at the time when the abolitionists were working hard to exterminate caste from the schools of New England, the School Committee called a meeting of the memorialists to decide whether they desired to send their children to the white or separate schools.[1] They decided in favor of the latter, provided that the colored people should have a building adequate to their needs and instruction of the best kind.[2] Complying with this decision the School Society erected the much-needed building in 1852. To provide for the maintenance of the separate schools the property of the citizens was taxed at such a rate as to secure to the colored pupils of the city benefits similar to those enjoyed by the white pupils.[3]
[Footnote 1: "Minority Report", etc., p. 21.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 22.]

[Footnote 3: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 334.]
Ardent antislavery men believed that this segregation in the schools was undemocratic. They asserted that the colored people would never have made such a request had the teachers of the public schools taken the proper interest in them. The Negroes, too, had long since been convinced that the white people would not maintain separate schools with the same equipment which they gave their own. This arrangement, however, continued until 1868. The legislature then passed an act declaring that the schools of the State should be open to all persons alike between the ages of four and sixteen, and that no person should be denied instruction in any public school in his school district on account of race or color.[1]
[Footnote 1: "Public Acts of the General Assembly of Conn"., 1868, p. 296.]
In the State of Massachusetts the contest was most ardent. Boston opened its first primary school for colored children in 1820. In other towns like Salem and Nantucket, New Bedford and Lowell, where the colored population was also considerable, the same policy was carried out.[1] Some years later, however, both the Negroes and their friends saw the error of their early advocacy of the establishment of special schools to escape the stigma of receiving charity. After the change in the attitude toward the public free schools and the further development of caste in American education, there arose in Massachusetts a struggle between leaders determined to restrict the Negroes' privileges to the use of poorly equipped separate schools and those contending for equality in education.
[Footnote 1: "Minority Report", etc., p. 35.]
Basing their action on the equality of men before the law, the advocates of democratic education held meetings from which went frequent and urgent petitions to school committees until Negroes were accepted in the public schools in all towns in Massachusetts except Boston.[1] Children of African blood were successfully admitted to the New Bedford schools on equality with the white youth in 1838.[2] In 1846 the school committee of that town reported that the colored pupils were regular in their attendance, and as successful in their work as the whites. There were then ninety in all in that system; four in the high school, forty in grammar schools, and the remainder in the primary department, all being scattered in such a way as to have one to four in twenty-one to twenty-eight schools. At Lowell the children of a colored family were not only among the best in the schools but the greatest favorites in the system.[3]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid"., p. 20, and "Niles Register", vol. lxvi., p. 320.]

[Footnote 2: "Minority Report", etc., p. 23.]

[Footnote 3: "Minority Report", etc., p. 25.]
The consolidation of the colored school of Salem with the others of that city led to no disturbance. Speaking of the democracy of these schools in 1846 Mr. Richard Fletcher said: "The principle of perfect equality is the vital principle of the system. Here all classes of the community mingle together. The rich and the poor meet on terms of equality and are prepared by the same instruction to discharge the duties of life. It is the principle of equality cherished in the free schools on which our government and free institutions rest. Destroy this principle in the schools and the people would soon cease to be free." At Nantucket, however, some trouble was experienced because of the admission of pupils of color in 1843. Certain patrons criticized the action adversely and withdrew fourteen of their children from the South Grammar School. The system, however, prospered thereafter rather than declined.[1] Many had no trouble in making the change.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid"., p. 6.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 23.]
These victories having been won in other towns of the State by 1846, it soon became evident that Boston would have to yield. Not only were abolitionists pointing to the ease with which this gain had been made in other towns, but were directing attention to the fact that in these smaller communities Negroes were both learning the fundamentals and advancing through the lower grades into the high school. Boston, which had a larger black population than all other towns in Massachusetts combined, had never seen a colored pupil prepared for a secondary institution in one of its public schools. It was, therefore, evident to fair-minded persons that in cities of separate systems Negroes would derive practically no benefit from the school tax which they paid.

This agitation for the abolition of caste in the public schools assumed its most violent form in Boston during the forties. The abolitionists then organized a more strenuous opposition to the caste system. Why Sarah Redmond and the other children of a family paying tax to support the schools of Boston should be turned away from a public school simply because they were persons of color was a problem too difficult for a fair-minded man.[1] The war of words came, however, when in response to a petition of Edmund Jackson, H.J. Bowditch, and other citizens for the admission of colored people to the public schools in 1844, the majority of the school committee refused the request. Following the opinion of Chandler, their solicitor, they based their action of making distinction in the public schools on the natural distinction of the races, which "no legislature, no social customs, can efface," and which "renders a promiscuous intermingling in the public schools disadvantageous both to them and to the whites."[2] Questioned as to any positive law providing for such discrimination, Chandler gave his opinion that the School Committee of Boston, under the authority perhaps of the City Council, had a legal right to establish and maintain special primary schools for the blacks. He believed, too, that in the exercise of their lawful discretionary power they could exclude white pupils from certain schools and colored pupils from certain other schools when, in their judgment, the best interests of all would thereby be promoted.[3]
[Footnote 1: Wigham, "The Antislavery Cause in America", p. 103.]

[Footnote 2: "Minority Report", etc., p. 31.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., p. 30.]
Encouraged by the fact that colored children were indiscriminately admitted to the schools of Salem, Nantucket, New Bedford, and Lowell, in fact, of every city in Massachusetts but Boston, the friends of the colored people fearlessly attacked the false legal theories of Solicitor Chandler. The minority of the School Committee argued that schools are the common property of all, and that each and all are legally entitled without "let or hindrance" to the equal benefits of all advantages they might confer.[1] Any action, therefore, which tended to restrict to any individual or class the advantages and benefits designed for all, was an illegal use of authority, and an arbitrary act used for pernicious purposes.[2] Their republican system, the minority believed, conferred civil equality and legal rights upon every citizen, knew neither privileged nor degraded classes, made no distinctions, and created no differences between rich and poor, learned and ignorant, or white and black, but extended to all alike its protection and benefits.[3] The minority considered it a merit of the school system that it produced the fusion of all classes, promoted the feeling of brotherhood, and the habits of equality. The power of the School Committee, therefore, was limited and constrained by the general spirit of the civil policy and by the letter and spirit of the laws which regulated the system.[4] It was further maintained that to debar the colored youth from these advantages, even if they were assured the same external results, would be a sore injustice and would serve as the surest means of perpetuating a prejudice which should be deprecated and discountenanced by all intelligent and Christian men.[5]
[Footnote 1: "Ibid"., p. 3.]

[Footnote 2: "Minority Report", etc. pp. 4 and 5.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., pp. 3 "et. seq".]

[Footnote 4: "Ibid"., p. 4.]

[Footnote 5: "Ibid"., p. 5.]
To the sophistry of Chandler, Wendell Phillips also made a logical reply. He asserted that as members of a legal body, the School Committee should have eyes only for such distinctions among their fellow-citizens as the law recognized and pointed out. Phillips believed that they had precedents for the difference of age and sex, for regulation of health, etc., but that when they opened their eyes to the varied complexion, to difference of race, to diversity of creed, to distinctions of caste, they would seek in vain through the laws and institutions of Massachusetts for any recognition of their prejudice. He deplored the fact that they had attempted to foist into the legal arrangements of the land a principle utterly repugnant to the State constitution, and that what the sovereignty of the constitution dared not attempt a school committee accomplished. To Phillips it seemed crassly inconsistent to say that races permitted to intermarry should be debarred by Mr. Chandler's "sapient committee" from educational contact.[1]
[Footnote 1: "Minority Report", etc., p. 27.]
This agitation continued until 1855 when the opposition had grown too strong to be longer resisted. The legislature of Massachusetts then enacted a law providing that in determining the qualifications of a scholar to be admitted to any public school no distinction should be made on account of the race, color, or religious opinion of the applicant. It was further provided that a child excluded from school for any of these reasons might bring suit for damages against the offending town.[1]
[Footnote 1: "Acts and Resolves of the General Court of Mass"., 1855, ch. 256.]
In other towns of New England, where the black population was considerable, separate schools were established. There was one even in Portland, Maine.[1] Efforts in this direction were made in Vermont and New Hampshire, but because of the scarcity of the colored people these States did not have to resort to such segregation. The Constitution of Vermont was interpreted as extending to Negroes the benefits of the Bill of Rights, making all men free and equal. Persons of color, therefore, were regarded as men entitled to all the privileges of freemen, among which was that of education at the expense of the State.[2] The framers of the Constitution of New Hampshire were equally liberal in securing this right to the dark race.[3] But when the principal of an academy at Canaan admitted some Negroes to his private institution, a mob, as we have observed above, broke up the institution by moving the building to a swamp, while the officials of the town offered no resistance. Such a spirit as this accounts for the rise of separate schools in places where the free blacks had the right to attend any institution of learning supported by the State.
[Footnote 1: Adams, "Anti-slavery", etc., p. 142.]

[Footnote 2: Thorpe, "Federal and State Constitutions", vol. vi., p. 3762.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., vol. iv., p. 2471.]
The problem of educating the Negroes at public expense was perplexing also to the minds of the people of the West. The question became more and more important in Ohio as the black population in that commonwealth increased. The law of 1825 provided that moneys raised from taxation of half a mill on the dollar should be appropriated to the support of common schools in the respective counties and that these schools should be "open to the youth of every class and grade without distinction."[1] Some interpreted this law to include Negroes. To overcome the objection to the partiality shown by school officials the State passed another law in 1829. It excluded colored people from the benefits of the new system, and returned them the amount accruing from the school tax on their property.[2] Thereafter benevolent societies and private associations maintained colored schools in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, and the southern counties of Ohio.[3] But no help came from the cities and the State before 1849 when the legislature passed a law authorizing the establishment of schools for children of color at public expense.[4]
[Footnote 1: "Laws of Ohio", vol. xxiii., pp. 37 "et seq".]

[Footnote 2: Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio", p. 85.]

[Footnote 3: Simmons, "Men of Mark", p. 374.]

[Footnote 4: "Laws of Ohio", vol. liii., pp. 117-118.]
The Negroes of Cincinnati soon discovered that they had not won a great victory. They proceeded at once to elect trustees, organized a system, and employed teachers, relying on the money allotted them by the law on the basis of a per capita division of the school fund received by the Board of Education of Cincinnati. So great was the prejudice that the school officials refused to turn over the required funds on the grounds that the colored trustees were not electors, and therefore could not be office holders qualified to receive and disburse public funds.[1] Under the leadership of John I. Gaines the trustees called indignation meetings, and raised sufficient money to employ Flamen Ball, an attorney, to secure a writ of mandamus. The case was contested by the city officials even in the Supreme Court of the State which decided against the officious whites.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, pp. 371, 372.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., 1871, p. 372.]
Unfortunately it turned out that this decision did not mean very much to the Negroes. There were not many of them in certain settlements and the per capita division of the fund did not secure to them sufficient means to support schools. Even if the funds had been adequate to pay teachers, they had no schoolhouses. Lawyers of that day contended that the Act of 1849 had nothing to do with the construction of buildings. After a short period of accomplishing practically nothing material, the law was amended so as to transfer the control of such colored schools to the managers of the white system.[1] This was taken as a reflection on the standing of the blacks of the city and tended to make them refuse to co÷perate with the white board. On account of the failure of this body to act effectively prior to 1856, the people of color were again given power to elect their own trustees.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Laws of the State of Ohio", vol. liii., p. 118.]

[Footnote 2: "Ibid"., p. 118.]
During the contest for the control of the colored schools certain Negroes of Cincinnati were endeavoring to make good their claim that their children had a right to attend any school maintained by the city. Acting upon this contention a colored patron sent his son to a public school, which on account of his presence became the center of unusual excitement.[1] Miss Isabella Newhall, the teacher to whom he went, immediately complained to the Board of Education, requesting that he be expelled on account of his race. After "due deliberation" the Board of Education decided by a vote of fifteen to ten that he would have to withdraw from that school. Thereupon two members of that body, residing in the district of the timorous teacher, resigned.[2]
[Footnote 1: New York "Tribune", Feb. 19, 1855.]

[Footnote 2: New York "Tribune", Feb. 19, 1855; and Carlier, "L'Esclavage", etc., p. 339.]
Thereafter some progress in the development of separate schools in Cincinnati was noted. By 1855 the Board of Education of that city had established four public schools for the instruction of Negro youths. The colored pupils were showing their appreciation by regular attendance, manly deportment, and rapid progress in the acquisition of knowledge. Speaking of these Negroes in 1855, John P. Foote said that they shared with the white citizens that respect for education, and the diffusion of knowledge, which has ever been one of their "characteristics," and that they had, therefore, been more generally intelligent than free persons of color not only in other States but in all other parts of the world.[1] It was in appreciation of the worth of this class of progressive Negroes that in 1858 Nicholas Longworth built a comfortable school-house for them in Cincinnati, leasing it with the privilege of purchasing it in fourteen years.[2] They met these requirements within the stipulated time, and in 1859 secured through other agencies the construction of another building in the western portion of the city.[3]
[Footnote 1: Foote, "The Schools of Cincinnati", p. 92.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed"., 1871, p. 372.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., p. 372.]
The agitation for the admission of colored children to the public schools was not confined to Cincinnati alone, but came up throughout the section north of the Ohio River.[1] Where the black population was large enough to form a social center of its own, Negroes and their friends could more easily provide for the education of colored children. In settlements, however, in which just a few of them were found, some liberal-minded man usually asked the question why persons taxed to support a system of free schools should not share its benefits. To strengthen their position these benevolent men referred to the rapid progress of the belated people, many of whom within less than a generation from their emergence from slavery had become intelligent, virtuous, and respectable persons, and in not a few cases had accumulated considerable wealth.[2] Those who insisted that children of African blood should be debarred from the regular public schools had for their defense the so-called inequality of the races. Some went so far as to concede the claims made for the progressive blacks, and even to praise those of their respective communities.[3] But great as their progress had been, the advocates of the restriction of their educational privileges considered it wrong to claim for them equality with the Caucasian race. They believed that society would suffer from an intermingling of the children of the two races.
[Footnote 1: Hickok, "The Negro in Ohio", ch. iii.; and Boone, "History of Education in Indiana", p. 237.]

[Footnote 2: Foote, "The Schools of Cincinnati", p. 93.]

[Footnote 3: "Ibid"., p. 92.]
In Indiana the problem of educating Negroes was more difficult. R.G. Boone says that, "nominally for the first few years of the educational experience of the State, black and white children had equal privileges in the few schools that existed."[1] But this could not continue long. Abolitionists were moving the country, and freedmen soon found enemies as well as friends in the Ohio valley. Indiana, which was in 1824 so very "solicitous for a system of education which would guard against caste distinction," provided in 1837 that the white inhabitants alone of each congressional township should constitute the local school corporation.[2] In 1841 a petition was sent to the legislature requesting that a reasonable share of the school fund be appropriated to the education of Negroes, but the committee to which it was referred reported that legislation on that subject was inexpedient.[3] With the exception of prohibiting the immigration of such persons into that State not much account of them was taken until 1853. Then the legislature amended the law authorizing the establishment of schools in townships so as to provide that in all enumerations the children of color should not be taken, that the property of the blacks and mulattoes should not be taxed for school purposes, and that their children should not derive any benefit from the common schools of that State.[4] This provision had really been incorporated into the former law, but was omitted by oversight on the part of the engrossing clerk.[5]
[Footnote 1: Boone, "History of Ed. in Indiana", p. 237.]

[Footnote 2: "Laws of a General Nature of the State of Indiana", 1837, p. 15.]

[Footnote 3: Boone, "History of Education in Indiana", p. 237.]

[Footnote 4: "Laws of a General Nature of the State of Indiana", 1855, p. 161.]

[Footnote 5: Boone, "History of Education in Indiana", p. 237.]
A resolution of the House instructing the educational committee to report a bill for the establishment of schools for the education of the colored children of the State was overwhelmingly defeated in 1853. Explaining their position the opponents said that it was held "to be better for the weaker party that no privilege be extended to them," as the tendency to such "might be to induce the vain belief that the prejudice of the dominant race could ever be so mollified as to break down the rugged barriers that must forever exist between their social relations." The friends of the blacks believed that by elevating them the sense of their degradation would be keener, and so the greater would be their anxiety to seek another country, where with the spirit of men they "might breathe fresh air of social as well as political liberty."[1] This argument, however, availed little. Before the Civil War the Negroes of Indiana received help in acquiring knowledge from no source but private and mission schools.
[Footnote 1: Boone, "History of Education in Indiana", p. 237.]
In Illinois the situation was better than in Indiana, but far from encouraging. The constitution of 1847 restricted the benefits of the school law to white children, stipulating the word white throughout the act so as to make clear the intention of the legislators.[1] It seemed to some that, in excluding the colored children from the public schools, the law contemplated the establishment of separate schools in that it provided that the amount of school taxes collected from Negroes should be returned. Exactly what should be done with such money, however, was not stated in the act. But even if that were the object in view, the provision was of little help to the people of color for the reason that the clause providing for the return of school taxes was seldom executed. In the few cases in which it was carried out the fund thus raised was not adequate to the support of a special school, and generally there were not sufficient colored children in a community to justify such an outlay. In districts having control of their local affairs, however, the children of Negroes were often given a chance to attend school.
[Footnote 1: The Constitution of Illinois, in the "Journal of the Constitution of the State of Illinois", 1847, p. 344.]
As this scant consideration given Negroes of Illinois left one-half of the six thousand of their children out of the pale of education, earnest appeals were made that the restrictive word white be stricken from the school law. The friends of the colored people sought to show how inconsistent this system was with the spirit of the constitution of the State, which, interpreted as they saw it, guaranteed all persons equality.[1] They held meetings from which came renewed petitions to their representatives, entreating them to repeal or amend the old school law. It was not so much a question as to whether or not there should be separate schools as it was whether or not the people of color should be educated. The dispersed condition of their children made it impossible for the State to provide for them in special schools the same educational facilities as those furnished the youth of Caucasian blood. Chicago tried the experiment in 1864, but failing to get the desired result, incorporated the colored children into the white schools the following year.[2] The State Legislature had sufficient moral courage to do away with these caste distinctions in 1874.[3]
[Footnote 1: Thorpe, "Federal and State Constitutions", Const. of Illinois.]

[Footnote 2: "Special Report of U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 343.]

[Footnote 3: Starr and Curtis, "Annotated Statutes of Illinois", ch. 105, p. 2261.]
In other States of the West and the North where few colored people were found, the solution of the problem was easier. After 1848 Negroes were legal voters in the school meetings of Michigan. Colored children were enumerated with others to determine the basis for the apportionment of the school funds, and were allowed to attend the public schools. Wisconsin granted Negroes equal school privileges.[1] After the adoption of a free constitution in 1857, Iowa "determined no man's rights by the color of his skin." Wherever the word white had served to restrict the privileges of persons of color it was stricken out to make it possible for them not only to bear arms and to vote but to attend public schools.[2]
[Footnote 1: "Special Report of the U.S. Com. of Ed.", 1871, p. 400.]

[Footnote 2: "Journal of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Iowa", 1857, p. 3 of the Constitution.]


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